Reasons why Seth was jealous of his brother Osiris

Seth‘s jealousy towards Osiris is a central theme in ancient Egyptian mythology, leading to one of the most dramatic and significant events in their pantheon: the murder of Osiris.

Below, World History Edu provides a breakdown of how Seth’s envy culminated in this treacherous act:

Brotherly Rivalry

In the myths, Osiris and Seth are brothers, but they were polar opposites in terms of character and virtues. While Osiris was considered the embodiment of order, fertility, and kingship, Seth represented chaos, deserts, and storms.

Divine Birthright

As the elder brother, Osiris inherited the throne, which automatically positioned him higher in the cosmic hierarchy than Seth. This could have been perceived by Seth as a slight, fueling his jealousy.

Osiris: The Egyptian God of the Underworld

Osiris’ Popular Rule

Being the oldest of his siblings, Osiris was crowned king of Egypt and was loved and revered by the gods and mortals alike for bringing civilization, agriculture, and justice to the land. Under his rule, Egypt prospered and was at peace.

Relationship with Isis

Osiris’ close bond and partnership with Isis, a powerful and revered goddess, gave him additional strength and support. This combined power of Osiris and Isis might have been seen as a challenge to Seth’s ambitions.

READ MORE: The Myth of Isis and Osiris

Seth’s Growing Resentment

The stark contrast between Osiris’ benevolence and Seth’s disruptive nature caused tensions. Seth became increasingly resentful of Osiris’ success and the adulation he received. This envy was exacerbated by the fact that Osiris had a legitimate heir, Horus, with his wife Isis, which further secured Osiris’ legacy.

Set (Seth), the god of chaos and the desert regions, was once a beloved god as he is believed to have protected the sun god Ra on his daily journey through the underworld. However, with the passage of time, Set came to be associated with wanton destruction and wars. He even killed his own brother Osiris and thereafter took the throne of Egypt.

Personal Vengeance

According to some versions of the myth, Seth might have been vengeful because of Osiris’ supposed relations with Nephthys, Seth’s consort. Feeling betrayed, this could have added a personal dimension to his jealousy.

The Trap

Consumed by jealousy, Seth devised a cunning plan to get rid of Osiris. He crafted a beautiful chest, tailored precisely to Osiris’ measurements. At a grand feast attended by other deities and guests, Seth offered the chest as a gift to anyone who could fit perfectly inside. When Osiris lay down inside the chest, Seth, with the help of his co-conspirators, quickly sealed it shut.

Osiris’ Death

With Osiris trapped inside, Seth threw the chest into the Nile River, where it floated away. Osiris died inside the chest, and his body eventually came to rest in a tamarisk tree in the distant land of Byblos.

Further Desecration

After Isis retrieved the chest and Osiris’ body, Seth, upon discovering this, flew into a rage. Not content with just killing Osiris, he wanted to eradicate any memory or trace of him. He stole the body, dismembered it into fourteen pieces, and scattered them throughout Egypt.


The murder of Osiris and subsequent events form the core of many rituals, beliefs, and festivals in ancient Egypt.

Osiris’ resurrection as the lord of the afterlife and the battles between Horus and Seth reinforced the themes of life, death, rebirth, and the eternal struggle between order and chaos.

The tale served as a foundational myth for the Egyptians, encapsulating their beliefs about mortality, the afterlife, and the divine order of things.

Questions and Answers?

Why was Osiris loved by his people?

Osiris was deeply loved and revered by both gods and mortals. His reign brought stability and prosperity to the land, making him a beloved figure. Seth, due to his nature and attributes, did not enjoy the same level of veneration.

Isis and Osiris

In the myths Osiris’ wife, Isis, resurrected him briefly with her magic, long enough for her to conceive their son, Horus. Osiris then became the ruler of the Underworld. Image: The family of Osiris. Osiris on a lapis lazuli pillar in the middle, flanked by Horus on the left and Isis on the right (22nd dynasty, Louvre, Paris)

Why did Seth see his nephew Horus as a threat?

Osiris and his wife, Isis, bore a son, Horus, ensuring the continuation of Osiris’ lineage and legacy. This could have been seen as a further threat to Seth’s aspirations to power.

READ MORE: Conflict between Seth and Horus over the throne of Egypt

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